I chased a girl into the Speech and Theater program when I was in high school. I was walking away from a drug culture, the train had already left the station for any sports involvement, and I was looking for a place to belong. I was painfully shy and lacked any sense of identity. Speech helped me gain confidence, taught me to better frame up my thoughts, gave me a place to belong, and got me closer to the aforementioned girl.
As you might imagine, as a thick-tongued boy lacking confidence, they kept chiding me to speak louder and enunciate. It wasn’t until I felt like I was almost screaming and articulating every syllable as an individual word, that they felt like I was actually speaking in an appropriate manner. Sometimes when you are not used to speaking up or having anyone care about what you have to say, you have to exaggerate in the other direction. You have to do what feels like shouting, just to be heard.
I call that “fighting your tendency.” It is a concept that seems to show up in conversations all the time. It is the simple idea that you have go against the grain of your default behavior to get decidedly different results.
- If you tend to not speak up, you may have to talk in a way that feels excessive to you.
- If you tend to say too much like me, censor yourself to the point of almost feeling like you’re not saying anything.
- If you tend to micromanage, do what feels like completely taking your hands off the reins.
- If you tend to abdicate authority, do the opposite.
- If your spouse feels unloved, despite the fact that you think you’ve made it abundantly clear, make it unmistakably clear.
Fight the tendency to respond and behave the way you always have.
For me, learning to ask questions instead of incessantly blabbering unwanted or unrequested answers, has changed the quality of almost every conversation. I am trying to STOP dominating every conversation. In fact, the 300 or so episodes of this very blog have allowed me a platform to share some of the deep thoughts and stirrings of my heart instead of trying to cram all of them into every conversation.
I am fighting my tendency by trying to be slower to speak and quicker to listen.
And it isn’t that our tendency isn’t often offered out of the best of intentions. When my wife read a female companion version to the book “Wild at Heart” that had changed my life and been the focus of my ministry, I went to work:
- I signed her and a friend up for a retreat in Colorado based on the book without asking her (it was the middle of winter and she was in her third trimester with our fourth child).
- I ordered her 10 copies of the book.
- I help draft a list of the ladies she might invite to a study.
- I created the invitation that I thought she could send to all of them.
Yeah, it’s funny now, but I think I crushed her desire to actually pursue other women. She didn’t actually start engaging women with this message in earnest for several years after that. My heart was good, but my actions were bad.
All my best intentions, wrapped in my legalistic desire to control everything, ruined (temporarily) an opportunity for my wife to share her heart and inspiration about a life-changing message with others. When it comes to many things, I have had to learn to sit back and keep my opinions and micro-managing to myself.
Because my tendency is to take over, even when I think I am only encouraging, it can feel like micro-managing to others. Going against my natural tendency, has brought some necessary balance to things. Or at least I think so. Maybe you should ask my wife.
What are your tendencies?
What are you offering too much of that you need to restrain?
Where are you offering too little that you need to step it up?
If you have the courage, ask your spouse or team members where they would like you to step it up and where they would like you to back off. Ask them what tendencies you have that they would prefer that you fight!